For several years now, I’ve been writing about the benefits of new technology and how, when implemented properly, it can result in tangible benefits. But what happens when technology is not implemented properly? Simply put — nothing good. A failed technology upgrade can have a far greater impact than just the lost time and wasted effort that went into the unsuccessful project. Typically, it creates an atmosphere of general resistance to any future attempts in improving a process; it may result in disciplinary action against or firing of the project lead; and perhaps most important, it may put your organization at a disadvantage when directly competing with other organizations.
So, what can we do to give our technology implementation projects the best chances for success? Unfortunately, there is no silver-bullet answer, but there are several obstacles that impede success that you can spot and avoid before even getting started.
1) Full owner/management support — Commonly, a technology implementation project is rooted in the end users who are in the trenches day in and day out, who see or hear about a product or process that will benefit the organization, and who ultimately bring it to the attention of authorities to make the project happen. The situation may also occur where there are several owners or managers and a select few decide upon a new technology integration project and become the champions. However, regardless of its origins, if the people who write the checks are not behind the technology implementation, it has an unlikely chance of succeeding. They must be willing to commit time, money, and other resources to make the implementation work. If they aren’t, the project should be postponed until management provides its full support.
2) End-user support — Often, owners have identified a new technology that they believe will improve the organization’s efficiency and put their full support behind it. However, the end users must also be behind the project. Since the end users are the “doers” who use the new technology, they must be willing to put in the effort to make it work. Possible reasons for resistance include fear of learning a new product, being pushed out of one’s comfort zone, dislike of the brand of product chosen, or past technology integration projects that failed. Whatever the reason, a team of enthusiastic end users must be part of the implementation project, otherwise it has little chance of success.
3) Adequate funding for the implementation effort — It is rare that technology these days can be taken out of the box and immediately introduced into your workflow with little or no effort. Therefore, successful implementation depends on proper training and consulting services. Furthermore, consulting services are rarely a one-size-fits-all process. While organizations may have general commonalities, each has a specific way of doing things that differentiates itself from others. Additionally, the fees paid to a consultant are minimal compared with the opportunity costs associated with staff not doing billable work while they are learning the new technology. Therefore, it is vital to factor in these lost billable hours when funding your technology project. Attempting to integrate advanced technology without planning for and properly funding the consulting, training, and lost productivity during integration is a recipe for failure.
4) Understanding the effort involved — The entire organization must understand the effort required to integrate fully a new technology so that the desired goals are achieved. A major cause of underestimating effort is lack of communication among the people and departments involved — especially at the onset of a technology implementation project. Input from all departments and personnel at all levels must be elicited and incorporated into the implementation plan. Lack of planning and underestimating effort will likely guarantee failure.
5) Selecting the right implementation partner — Some organizations have the in-house staff required to implement a new product or system with little outside help. However, most do not have the luxury of these dedicated resources and even those that do must still partner with the right vendor when purchasing the technology. The operative word here is “partnering.” Many resellers can offer the actual product and will aggressively compete for your business. A successful implementation depends on not only choosing the correct product, but also choosing a consultant who will partner with you to ensure your success. An effective consultant partner will understand the technology itself and, more importantly, your business and the tasks you must accomplish in your daily routine. Just remember to do your homework and get several proposals so you have the greatest chance of selecting the best partner.
As with any construction or engineering project, good planning and execution are both required when implementing new software or hardware technology. Recognize these key factors and give your project the best chance at success.
Mark J. Scacco, P.E., is the president and founder of Engineered Efficiency, Inc., a nationwide BIM and CAD training and consulting firm. He appreciates your feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.